by Glenn Nelson
I’m a journalist and a gearhead, so all my equipment is heavily researched and curated. Keep in mind that I’m on the trails for the soul-slaking experience, but also to photograph and otherwise record the experience. This is the gear that comes with me, year-round, every time out. And, yes, this all fits into the first item!
F-Stop Guru: This would be a great bag, even if I didn’t have to carry any camera gear. For most of the year (sometimes in the winter I’ll go bigger, to an F-Stop Tilopa BC, to haul more clothing layers and shelter), this bag will carry everything listed below. I like F-Stop bags because they are flexible systems spearheaded by the Internal Camera Unit (ICU), which comes in different sizes, depending on the amount of gear you want to carry. The gear is designed for outdoor photographers by outdoor photographers, and it shows.
Nikon D750: I also have a D810, the king of sharpness and detail among DSLRs, but the D750 now is almost always in my bag. It is faster, smaller and lighter, and the tilting LCD is incredibly handy.
Really Right Stuff L-Plate for Nikon D810: For ease of attachment and adjustment to a ballhead/tripod, plus protection of the camera body, from a domestic, industry-leading company.
Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 lens: My favorite wide angle is the 14-24 f/2.8 but it’s heavy, specialized and too filter-unfriendly to carry fulltime. I also own a very, very light 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5, but it has enough distortion that I’ll more often carry the heavier 17-35.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII lens: One of the Nikkor “trinity” lenses (with the 14-24 and 24-70), I justify the weight because of its sharpness and vibration reduction, with just enough reach for detail shots and some wildlife.
Nikon TC-14E II 1.4 teleconverter: For the times I need a little extra reach. The 1.4x magnifcation increases the reach on my 70-200 to 280mm, at the cost of only one stop.
Nikon 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens: I’m not a big mid-zoom guy for some reason, but I’m always glad I can pull this dude out. It’s light and small, doesn’t have to be fast for what I’m doing and, as a bonus, also can go macro.
F-Stop Redfern pouch: This is where I stash the 28-70 lens, plus Bear Bells.
Lee Filters various filters: More and more photographers are advocating fixing lighting imbalances in post processing, but there are many, such as glare, that need to be subdued in the field. The Lee system allows one to use a set of filters on various lenses with a holder attached to filter rings with adapters, plus Lee is renowned for its handmade filters. I carry a circular polarizer, three neutral density graduated filters to balance exposures, as well as a Big Stopper (10-stop), Little Stopper (6-stop) and 3-stop ND filter.
Mindshift Filter Hive: The minds behind the great Think Tank bags and carriers focused their brain power for the outdoor photographer. This piece is genius, unifying your filters into one padded and organized kit, with enough room for cloths, tools and filter holder. Plus you can chuck all the individual pouches that take up room and get separated in your bag. Just about every photographer who has seen me clip it to my tripod in the field asks about it.
Nikon MC-36A Multi-Function Remote: Using a remote trigger eliminates any shake you emit by pressing the shutter. This unit also has a timer and intervalometer, allowing for time lapse, stacked exposures, long exposures and the like. Alternatively, when I don’t feel extra lazy, I will use a CamRanger wireless remote that offers control from a smart phone or tablet. The best reason to use it is for live view of awkward angles or placements.
Hoodman Loupe: Because the sun is a light you cannot switch off, and you need to view important information on your camera’s LCD screen.
Storm Jacket camera cover: Electronics do not like water, so no matter how waterproof or weather-sealed your camera is, it’s always good to have a waterproof cover for rain or spray from waterfalls or surf. I have several sizes in the standard Storm Jacket, but carry the XL for the flexibility as well as the fact that it’s black, whereas red or yellow are the sensory equivalent of shooting flares at possible wildlife subjects.
Sony RX100 II pocket camera: Its initial version was declared the best pocket camera ever made. This baby has a 20MP sensor, tiltable screen and is controllable via Wi-Fi. I use this for high-quality selfies, video and when I’m too lazy to unpack my pro gear, which is frequent.
F-Stop Digi Buddy pouch: This is where I stash the Sony. It clips right to the shoulder strap of my bag, making it always available. It’s padded and can be attached to a belt and has become the camera’s de facto carrying case.
Really Right Stuff Pocket Pod: I use this with the Sony, so I don’t have to worry about shaky hands.
Really Right Stuff MTX Multi-Tool: Contains all the bits and hex keys you might need on an outing – all stored in the grip. Plus the tool can be stowed in or on RRS tripods. And, if that’s not enough, it can be used as a height extender for the Pocket Pod. It doesn’t slice or dice, but it’s saved me several times already.
Gitzo GK2580TQR Traveler tripod: The world-class, carbon steadiness in a smaller, lighter package. A Godsend, really.
Markins Q-Ball Q3 Traveler: Powerful, small and light, and made specifically for the Gitzo Traveler tripods. I purchased this when I was a novice and didn’t think levers were secure, so I got a knob release. If I purchased today, I’d definitely go for a lever release.
Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod: For absolute steadiness and shorter jaunts, I will justify the extra size. IMHO, this is the best tripod in the world.
Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead: The full-sized, lockdown ballhead. I use a leveling platform with mine. IMHO, this is the best ballhead in the world.
Lens Coat LegCoat Wrap tripod covers: These protect the shoulders and the tripod legs. I chose these over the LegCoats for the neoprene and sleeker size. These aren’t essential, except for when I’m toting my big 500mm and gimbal head to photograph birds and wildlife.
Westcomb Shift LT Hoody: This is always with me – for rain and wind protection, as well as an extra layer. Courtesy of REI’s generous return policy, I was able to test a bunch of different shells in the field. This was the most breathable and I like that it’s made just north of me in Vancouver, B.C. When released, it was the lightest shell in existence at 12 ounces.
Geigerrig Hydration Engine: AKA, bladder or water reservoir – because you absolutely need to stay hydrated. I use Geigerrig for the ease of adding water and washing, plus the ability to pressurize the bladder – to squirt water, allowing to share and not be nasty, or to clean or cool, as well as force the water through a filter, if needed. I also carry an inline filter, also by Geigerrig, to refill the pack with water along the trail, which you absolutely do not want to drink straight up because of bacteria and viruses.
Ibex VT Full Zip: I could go on and on about the virtues of merino wool, and may in another post. I get my baselayers from another fine merino clothier, Icebreaker, but I own an assortment of midlayers from Ibex. I’m crazy about this piece, would live in it if I could. It’s always with me because of the weight of the fabric, which offers just enough more or less, depending on the situation.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles: I know these conjure images of goofy looking grandpas duck-walking down the sidewalk with ski poles. You really don’t see many people without at least a little gray in their hair using these. But if I knew then what I know now, I’d have been using trekking poles years ago, to save the wear and tear on my knees. I thank whomever invented these every time I use them, which mostly is on steep ascents and, especially, descents.
Black Diamond headlamps: Extra lighting is one of the 10 essentials, but it’s also a must for photographers working in the dark. I always have a Revolt with me because it’s small, powerful and has red light for night vision. I also have an Icon for longer-lasting, more powerful light.
Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Latern: If you’re walking through the woods in pitch darkness, you really can’t have enough light. I carry this just in case. It’s handy as an LED task or camp light because it has a magnetic hanging fastener and high, low and strobe modes. You may have figured out that I believe in redundancy and, just so you know, I carry a small LED flashlight, too.
Leica Ultravid 8×20 compact binoculars: A lot of hiking photographers eschew binoculars because of weight and hassle. I’m also a birder so I’m used to carrying optics. Plus these are such a pleasure, I often will choose them over the larger, farther-reach models I own.
Delorme inReach Explorer: As you’ll see, going down this list, I’m really determined not to get lost. After realizing my cell phone doesn’t get reception at most of the places I’m hiking, I procured an inReach, mainly to allay the worries of my wife and family. I use the satellite communication device to send my location and short messages, and my friends and family get a kick out of it because they get sent a link that leads them to my location plotted on a pretty detailed map. The unit, which is pretty small, also provides SOS capability. The Explorer adds navigational functionality, which could come in handy … you know … just in case.
Garmin Oregon 650 handheld GPS and hard-shell case: Also just in case, the Oregon 650 at its core is a navigational device. I’ve used it that way – for turn-by-turn navigation where my cell didn’t get any reception, or to find trailheads on beaches that I marked as a waypoint – but the main purpose of this device for me is to record my hikes, as you will note all over this website. I also get great, at-a-glance information, such as elapsed time and distance, elevation, heading and, even, current temperature. Some of that may be replaced by the following.
Garmin Fenix 2 outdoor watch: I used to run a lot and used a fitness watch to record my time, distance and heart rate. When that unit failed, I moved over to this densely featured watch. It will give me cadence, when I read my bicycle indoors on a trainer, but also provide a lot of useful information on the trail and could even be configured to provide alerts from your smartphone. And, yes, it even could be used as a navigational device.
Suunto MC-2 Pro compass: As if I don’t have this “essential” already covered, this compass has a sighting mirror that acts as a case, easy declination adjustment, long-enough straight edge with measurements. Hey, if all else fails …
National Geographic hiking map: With all the technical marvels already in my possession, why also go old school? Maps don’t require batteries. They don’t burn out or short circuit. National Geographic makes reliable, rip- and water-resistant maps that will adequately cover the type of hiking we plan to promote on this website.
Green Trail map: You could navigate with just a compass, but pairing one with a reliable map makes things so much easier and confidence-inspiring. Green Trail and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) make more recent and detailed maps for quadrants – that is, a corner of Olympic National Park, instead of the whole park. Speaking of Olympic National Park, for there you might consider Custom Correct maps because they specialize and are based in that region and their maps often overlap quadrants so trails don’t get cut off. I’ve fsimply ound Green Trail maps more readily available. I put mine in a vinyl sleeve, also made by Green Trail, because why pull out a map, only to find it torn and soaked like a biscuit at Thanksgiving?
Spyderco Enduro pocket knife: One of the 10 essentials – small, light, well-made and feels good in your hand.
Therm-A-Rest inflatable cushion: You’ll always be ready for an emergency power nap, having a seat in mud, or kneeling in wet sand to snap a closeup of a sea star.
Counter Assault Bear Spray: There are things you acquire in life that you hope never to use. Like accidental death and dismemberment insurance, this is one of those. Growing up, I saw plenty of bears on trails and road side, but since I read “Grizzly Man” and saw the resultant documentary, I view bears in a whole different way. Better safe than sorry, I say.
Exotac NanoStriker firestarter: Rather than toss in a book of matches (fire-starting means being one of the 10 essentials) that I stumbled out of a bar with, I’m going with waterproof, reliable and easy to store.
Miscellaneous: If you haven’t figured it out yet, I was a Boy Scout. The Scout motto: Be Prepared. I live that motto. So in addition to the above, called-out items, I also have two (in case I run out of one) sunscreen, two insect repellants (I swear by Natrapel), an emergency poncho (for shelter – a 10 essential), repair tape, a lens pen, several lens cloths, two compact towels, merino wool buff (for head cover, makeshift bacalava or neck warmer), gloves, extra batteries for everything I carry, packages of peanut butter (for emergency rations) and, last but certainly not least, a portable first-aid kit into which I’ve inserted insect-bite salve. And, again, yes, everything listed fits into an F-Stop Guru.